Han Ruler and Emperor Biographies
Authoring and Translation by
In the year 91 BC, as Wu-di’s reign was ending, a violent war erupted around the capital over who would succeed him. On one side was the Empress with the heir apparent and on the other side was the family of one of Wu-di’s concubines. The two families came close to destroying each other. Then just before Wu-di’s death, a compromise heir was chosen: the eight-year-old Liu Fuling, who was put on the regency of Huo Guang, a former general.
Huo Guang organized a conference to inquire about the discontent of the Lord’s subjects. Invited to the conference were government officials of the legalist school and worthy representatives of Confucianism. The Legalists argued for maintaining the status quo. They argued that their economic policies helped maintain China’s defences against the continued hostility of the Xiong Nu, and that they were protecting the people against exploitation of traders. They argued in favour of the western expansion because it brought the empire horses, camels, fruits, and various imported luxuries, such as furs, rugs, and precious stones.
The Confucianists, on the other hand, made a moral issue of peasant grievances. They also argued that the Chinese had no business in Central Asia and that China should stay within its borders and live in peace with its neighbours. The Confucianists argued that trade was not a proper activity of government, that government should not compete with private tradesmen, and they complained that the imported goods mentioned by the Legalists found their way only to the houses of the rich.
Under Huo Guang’s regency, taxes were reduced and peace negotiations began with the Xiong Nu chieftains. The young Emperor, Zhao-di, died in 74 BC, and once again conflicted erupted in the capital. Zhao-di’s heir was Emperor for only twenty-seven days, because Huo Guang replaced him with someone he thought he could control: Xuan-di.
Huo Guang died peacefully six years later, but Palace rivalry led to the charges of treason against Huo Guang’s wife, son, and many of Huo Guang’s relatives and family associates, and they were executed.
Copyright © 2002 - 2003
Major Sources: Shi Ji (Sima Qian)
Ancient Chinese History and Emperors (Brian Williams)
with notes from William Ho and Quentin Tran